There are so many things that one need to be aware of having a basic knowledge before visiting any particular place. Paris is one of those prestigious places so many of us would like to visit. With that idea in mind, there a number of things you need to know before visiting the prestigious city of Paris. Moreover, France and its capital, Paris is not an English Speaking nation and that might make things more difficult for you when as soon as you and in Paris. In order to avoid the culture shock, it is very crucial to be aware of a number of things you should know before visiting Paris.
1- You need to learn basic French
French is the national language and the language of instructions in Paris. With that idea, if you are from other parts of the world where French is not a national or a language of instruction. The best thing to do is to at least learn some basic French so that you can be able to communicate as soon as you set foot on French soil. Some of the basic things you can learn include salutations such as Madame meaning Madam, Monsieur meaning Sir and De rein meaning you are welcome. I am not saying that you should stick to these few words but it is important to research, learn and learn to pronounce those French words. Once you have like a 100 words at hand, then you visit Paris will be a memorable one simply because, you will be able to communicate, create rapport, order for something to eat and also ask for direction. Your stay in Paris will also be memorable basically because you have something to tell the people of Paris using their own language.
2- Always say goodbye and hello each and every time you enter restaurants or someone’s house
Unlike in most of the cities in the world where we might enter into a store and simply order a product the leave after paying for it, in Paris, people have this culture where they must say hello and goodbye when they are leaving. So how would you present yourself as soon as you enter a restaurant or a store in France? The first thing you need to do is say hello i.e. “Bonjour” and don’t forget to add a salutation such as “Madame” or Monsieur”. So you will say, “Bonjour Madame/Monsieur”. This way you will sound respectable and a person who appreciates French culture. However, we might sometimes forget to do this basically because we are used to entering a store, getting what we need and then living. If you forget by chance, then no need for you to worry so much because no one will victimize you. Parisians are very understanding especially when you are a visitor from America.
3- It is not necessary to tip but if you wish, it will be appreciated
Unlike in other parts of the world such as in Thailand where tipping is something that most restaurant owners and workers expect all the time, Paris is different. It is different in the sense that it is not necessary to tip basically because Paris is a city where the tipping mentality is not deeply rooted. It is very crucial for you to understand that tipping is something that you do only if you feel like the services that were given to you we very good. However, some of the restaurant owners, have made it illegal for waiters to accept tips and in fact, they have fitted CCTV cameras where they can monitor if waiters are receiving tips. Tips in France can, however, be presented at the payment counter and not to the waiters. Having this idea in mind, you are now in a good position not to worry about tipping and all you need to do is get services and remember to say thank you.
4- Paris is subdivided into 20 main neighborhoods
Just like any other city where the city is made of places with their specific names, Paris is divided into 20 neighborhoods and you need to master all of them. It is very crucial also to consider the need to ask for the direction that will get you to each neighborhood. The neighborhood in Paris is referred to as arrondissements. The arrondissements are separated by a big river which has also been enlarged by human activities. You will hear people talk the right and the left bank. With this, they will be referring to those neighborhoods which are located at either side of the river. It I very important for you to master those neighborhoods which are found at the left and those that can be accessed through the right side of the bank. Once you are able to figure out where they are located, you will certainly be in a good position to get around the city easily.
5- Restrooms go for a Fee and not Easy to locate
Unlike in places like Canada where the restrooms are everywhere in the city, it is very rare to find a restroom in Paris. This does not mean that they don’t consider them very necessary but they are simply constructed in specific places and not necessarily anywhere in the city. So if you are a first time visitor, it is very crucial to make sure that you eat a little and drink less so as to avoid running around in search of a restroom. However, once you master them and their locations, it would be easy to access them. Restroom in Paris are lavish and at Luxembourg, I was amazed by how conspicuous the restrooms were. In fact, I stopped for a minute to check if they were indeed restrooms or private properties. They are clean nice to visit and that is the reason you are always expected to pay for using them. Make sure that you pay for them whenever you visit them. Don’t forget because you will go to jail for failure to pay for a service.
6- The Month of August has been set aside for Vacations
The French love their work but they equally love resting as well. With that idea in mind, it is very crucial for you to know that Paris has always valued the month of August as the month where many people can take their vacation. In fact, the employers have made it a rule that a section of employees will have their vacation in August. August is the best month to go for your vacation because this is a summer month where you will always enjoy a lot of sunshine. As much as the people of Paris value their work, they also love having a day of their work at least once a year. You will be amazed by the fact hundreds of tourist converge here each and every year to have their holidays. This is the best time to have your holidays as well and you will enjoy your vacation more than any other month of the year in Paris.
7- Restaurants are not Always Open in Paris
There is time for everything in Paris. There is a time to eat and a time to work. We might be used to those restaurants which are open all day long in our states but you will meet a culture shock. Paris is a big city but restaurants will only open at around noon and close at 2 pm. For those of us who are used to eating here and there any time, it is very crucial to consider dining times. At these specific times, it will not be easy to get empty and in order to miss a table, you need to do a reservation. It is very crucial however to also make sure that you arrive on time and in the event that you don’t arrive at all, your table will remain that way for the rest of the dinner or lunch time. That is how Paris work. Things are done according to their specified time. There is no eating at any particular time.
If things get worse, it is important to order bread and a takeaway soda from a bakery and a canteen somewhere. This is the only alternative you will have when your stomach is rumbling with anger. It is very rare to find a restaurant open at any given time but you will always find a bakery open and a canteen open at different places of Paris. That is how things are in Paris and now you know how to be a good timekeeper in Paris.
8- Restaurants offer tap water for free and Bottled water for a fee
You will agree with me that this is not something unusual to you but it is important to know that whenever you order for water, the waiter will always think that you need bottled water. That will mean that you have an additional cost to incur on top of your meals or breakfast. In Paris, you will be offered free tap water and all you need to do is simply mention tap water and it will be brought to you and no one will include the water bill in your bill. Tap water in Paris is safe for drinking unlike in other parts of the world where you will think twice before drinking any tapped water. Instead of accruing more costs on top of what your meal cost, just be modest and ask for tap water. It is free.
9- Sundays are set aside for resting and most businesses are closed
Just like in other parts of the word, Sunday is a day with little or no activity in the city. I am not saying that you will miss a cab that can take you from one neighborhood to another in Paris but what I mean is, groceries, restaurants, and stores or shops are always closed during this day. Since grocery stores must offer a product on each day, they simply open until mid-day. It is very important therefore to know that they will be closed and the best thing to do is plan to buy your groceries early enough and stuff them into your fridge until that time when you require them. Unlike in America where businesses will remain open even during the weekends, Paris is a city where businesses remain closed for the better part of the weekend. Weekends are set aside for family. All work and no day off make Jack a dull boy.
10- Paris Enjoy Ample and Efficient Public Transport
Paris has always enjoyed a perfect network of the metro transport system which crisscrosses the city. Sometimes, you may get tired of walking around or using your private car. If that is the case, then you need to know that Paris enjoys a good metro transport. The metro transport is cheaper than any other means of transport and it will just cost you 1.90 euros per single trip no matter where you are going within the city. If you will be traveling with your family members, then it is crucial to understand that you will pay half the price for children between 5 and 11 but as for those below the age of 4, transport by metro transport is absolutely free.
11- It is Uncommon to find Rooms to accommodate a family
Unlike the spacious hotel rooms you can find in some parts of the world such as in New York, it is very uncommon to find a spacious hotel room that can accommodate you and your family. Why? It is basically because Parisians have a mentality that each and every individual should stay in his/her own room. It is crucial to consider, therefore, renting an apartment instead if you will be staying for a month or so in the city. The other thing to be aware of as far as renting a hotel room is concerned is that while we are used to starting with the first floor when counting the number of floors, Europe and especially France starts with ground level 0. You need to be mindful of this idea simply because you will be confused when you find yourself on the wrong floor. While on the wrong floor, you will find a room number different from yours. This will be total confusion.
12- Cabs are very expensive late at night
Considering that metro is the most favorite transport in Paris, they tend to become expensive at night but not at any time of the night. Taxis become expensive those late hours of the night in Paris. If you are planning to travel to Paris, it is very important for you to consider doing your thing during the sensible time of the day. You need to always use the metro but the problem is that they operate until 9 pm at night. However, in the event that you want to go out late at night, you need to be prepared to pay more than you expect. For a taxi to drop you just a kilometer, you will need to pay thrice the price that you could have paid if you had used a metro during the normal operating time. If your work will be done at night in Paris, then it is very crucial to consider taking with you an extra amount of money because taxi cabs are very expensive at night. If you are not aware of this, you will be in shock when a taxi driver tells you to pay three times the amount that you would have paid while using metro transport. Be prepared to spend more at night or simply stick to the metro but that means going home early so as to avoid paying for a taxi. This is a very important consideration.
13- France and the whole City of Paris uses a 22o volts power
Most of the electronics normally use a source of power that has been calibrated in such a way that it runs on power that is less or more than 220 volts. For instance, there are those electronics which will be charged using a source of power that only produces a power of 220 volts. It is very important therefore to consider buying a charger that is compatible with this amount of power. Some or we can say most of the electronics use power of 220 volts but some may use less amount than this. With that before traveling to Paris, it is crucial for you to make sure that you carry your own adapter plugs or even buy one as soon as you land in Paris. Sometimes people may assume the fact that power voltages vary from one continent or from one country to another. It is very important therefore to avoid blowing up your electronics by making sure that you get the right adaptors that will help you reduce the amount of power that your electronics will be using. Valuable electronics such as smartphones and laptops run well on a 220-volt power but you need an adaptor so that in case of anything, you will be in a position to save your electronics from overheating due to a large voltage.
14- Meals may take time after you have ordered
In Paris, it is possible to lose your tempers simply because waiters will take their time before they can bring you whatever you have ordered. When you order a delicacy, you will have to sit for ten minutes before the food is brought to your table. With that idea in mind, it is very important therefore to consider being patient because the people of Paris will only prepare a meal after it has been ordered and not always in advance. Unlike in other parts of the world where meals prepared in advance, the Parisians have always wanted to offer quality food and that means taking their time so that they can be able to give you fresh food that can even be prepared at your presence. Some of us might order and start yelling at the waiters complaining that the food is taking too long but that is how things are in Paris. You need to wait for at least ten to fifteen minutes so that your food will be served.
15- Metro tickets are bought from automatic vending machines
There is no one who will come around selling tickets for you so that you can get to use the metro. With that idea at hand, it is very important to make sure that you know where to find these particular vending machines basically because it is important if you will be traveling within the city using the metro. You don’t, however, need to worry at all because there are signs everywhere showing where the automatic vending machine can be found. With these signs, you will be in a good position to buy a ticket and use the metro for that particular day. There is one trick that I would gladly like to share with you. When buying a metro ticket, it is very important to make sure that you buy more tickets so that you can use accrue the benefit of buying many tickets at once. In Paris, whenever you buy more than ten tickets, the cost of your travel will reduce by about ten percent and that means saving a lot of money at the end of the day. With that idea in mind, you don’t need to buy one ticket at a go when you can buy more that will last you for the rest of your visit to Paris.
16- The sidewalks are congested but walking on them is safe
If we compare Paris and other parts of the world or with the place where you come from, you will realize that in some countries, people need their own space while working on the sidewalks. However, in Paris, you will be amazed by how people walk close to one another. In fact, in order to avoid a collision, people normally turn their shoulders but the good thing is that there are no pickpockets in Paris unlike other parts of the world. It is very important therefore to consider not wasting your money taking a taxi or a metro when you can just walk on the sidewalks. Whenever you are not in a hurry, it is important for you to make use of the sidewalks. It is very crucial also to make sure that you get yourself good and very comfortable shoes that can help you walk on the sidewalks comfortably. It is very difficult to forget all the neighborhood of Paris if you have extensively used the sidewalks. The advantage of using the sidewalks is the fact that you get to master most of the streets of Paris and this is something that most of the people visiting Paris do whenever they have time.
17- Bicycle for hire in Paris City
Did you know that instead of walking long distances or even using a taxi cab, you can simply hire a bike and rush to where you are going? Bikes are personal things in some parts of the world but in Paris, there are bicycles for hire. Someone will ask, “How does that work” but it is simple, there are specific points where bicycles are kept. You can say that they are bicycle stations yes. If you want to go to another section of the city and need a cheap transport, the best thing to do is asking yourself if you can ride a bicycle and then take a bicycle after paying for it. At your destination, you will leave that bike at a bicycle park meant for those specific bikes and then proceed to where you were going. The good thing about this mode of transport is that it is very cheap and it allows you to move swiftly to your destination. Bikes are nice especially when you have the whole city map at the palm of your hand. They are also good if you are not in a hurry lest you take a taxi to get you to where you are going. Bikes are the best but the only disadvantage is that you must be able to ride a bicycle and if not, then you are not that lucky.
18- There are street gambles but never gamble in the streets of Paris
As much as we might love gambling and as much as we have been successful in gambling, it is important to be aware of the fact that Paris is a city that we only visit as a tourist and then back home. With that idea in mind, you need to make sure that you avoid gambling in the streets. There are two things you might face if you will decide to gamble in the streets. First, you may lose all your money and wait for deportation back to your home country. Secondly, the gamblers in the streets of Paris may find a way around to con you extra or an additional amount in the name of charging for services offered when gambling such as predicting your wins. The best thing to do is just staying away and staying safe. Though gambling might be fun and habit forming, you need to try as much as possible to keep off as this is another man’s territory. Gambling in the streets is also illegal and if you do, then be prepared to spend some time in French cells.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are there smoking zones in the city of Paris?
Yes, there are those places which have been designated as smoking zones. If you feel like smoking, then it is very crucial to understand that there are laws in this city. Smoking is expected to take place at specific smoking zones and that is the only place that the law will never catch up with you. Again, never throw your cigarettes anywhere on the streets as there are trash cans meant for that. If you will be seen throwing cigarette butts on the streets, then be prepared to pay a fine of 60 or more in terms of pounds.
Are tourist restaurants always expensive in Paris?
In every city, tourist restaurants are usually expensive and Paris is not an exception. It is important to avoid high-end tourist restaurants basically because they are expensive for nothing. The quality might not be that good but they will still charge you more just because the restaurant is touristic in nature. This needs to be avoided.
Is walking better than subways?
Yes, walking is better than subways because of as a person who has come to visit the city as a tourist, you need to enjoy every bit of the city. Using the subways may not offer you an opportunity to window shop and just breathtaking sceneries and shops in the streets. It is very crucial therefore to just consider walking. As a visitor, you have the time and Paris is the place to spend that time walking and watching.
Can I see the Eiffel tower from all the sections of Paris city?
No, there are those specific spots where you can have a clear view of the Eiffel tower. But that does not mean that you can have a view of it from every place in Paris. In order to have a clear view of this tower, you need to make sure that you find a high place but always avoid expensive rooftops because they are costly and restricted.
Is August a month when the city is deserted?
Not really but yes, most of the Parisians go for a full month vacation in August. With that idea in mind, it is very important for you to walk in the streets because you will feel like you have the whole space for yourself. However, you might walk longer before you get a foreigner operated restaurant or shop opened for a full day. That is the main tip a far as August is concerned.